Updated: Dec 14, 2022
What you need to know for improved wellness in the days to come
It seems just like yesterday that 2020 was wrapping itself up. It was the year the upended all of us. We kept hearing about the "new normal" without any real sense of what that actually meant. There was so much chaos that none of us could begin to predict what some of those results and outcomes would be and now here we are, getting ready to wrap up 2022 and move into the great unknown of 2023. We don't have flying cars and we definitely don't have a technological driven utopia. Far from it. The opposite is definitely true, we are living in a complete dystopia where depression and anxiety have become our cruel masters.
While there's a lot working against our wellbeing mentally and spiritually right now there are a couple of bright spots. Let's talk about the good news before we look at the challenges that need to be faced.
Teen suicide appears to have decreased and while it is still heavily concerning, kids are ending their lives at the same alarming rates. With parents working from home and more kids doing school from home it seems to be helping kids be more in touch with the most important factor in their mental health: their parents. As a practitioner, I'm still quite concerned about the high rates of depression and anxiety among teens, these kids seem content enough for the time being to just staying home, tucking themselves in their private spaces and playing video games or staring at their smart phones. I realize this isn't entirely the best news but I'm just glad that fewer of them are ending their lives.
There's a new movement in mental health that has surfaced this year and it's picking up strength and energy like a hurricane, it's starting to make landfall in the mental health industry and it's the use of different psychedelic agents to be used in medicinal ways. Clinical trials are taking place in which the medicinal applications are being examined closely for treating things like PTSD, treatment resistant depression, addiction, anorexia and OCD just to name a few. The initial clinical trials are producing some extremely impressive and intriguing results. While it's become a bit troubling and puzzling as to why these substances were so significantly demonized for several decades, they are now being applied in such a way that it's proving to us that much of what we had previously believed about them is more than a bit misguided. Honestly, the potential implications for these medicines is giving us bright glimmer of hope in a bleak and desperate time.
Feeling as though life is pointless
Overall I would say that 2023 has been a year where more and more people, especially young people seem to have completely lost their sense of connection to life and living. While they generally have felt like there was no point or purpose to life before, it seems to have gotten so much more intense this year and I think it's because a lot of these young people are becoming adults and they can't live someone else's life anymore. Their zest for life has been muted by demands from their culture to conform and follow through with what is expected of them. They're going to college, not because they want to or it's something that they have wanted for themselves but because they've been told that they have to.
If we want better mental health in the months and years to come, we need to go back to supporting young people in following their own path and blazing their own trails without the fear of falling short and without the fear that the most important people in their lives, their parents, will reject or abandon them if their efforts and choices are disappointing.
One of my other major mental health concerns is how our relationships and human connections have taken a major hit. I've felt sad for teenagers who not only lack positive friendships but also harbor a sense of general contempt and dislike for their peers. In my practice I've encountered major resistance from some teens to engage in friendships and even to get out of their homes and go have fun when these are crucial elements for their development. It's an alarming trend that is proving to have some significant consequences. Sadly, many parents seem more concerned about school grades and academic performance than whether or not their child is happy and healthy. Unfortunately, they're also being pulled into what can only be described as a hostile social environment where people are only angry with each other over social and political issues. We've allowed disagreements to become to hostile.
We need to get back to a sense of community. We need to repair our human relationships by generating attitudes of empathy and compassion. We need to listen more and talk less. We need to quiet our egos and stop listening to our fears and in short, we need to be more connected to each other. We need to reach out, we need to more eye contact and we just need to spend more time together having fun and experiencing joy.
Technology woes and the lack of personal awareness
I recently read a quote from Albert Einstein, "I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots."
Let's be honest. Technology is dumbing us down. The thing that probably troubles me the most is the ever declining level of person awareness and insight that I see in people and I truly believe that personal technology is working against us. It's the enemy of awareness and while awareness might be difficult, it's a beautiful gift that enables us to improve our lives and increase our chances of finding happiness. Instead of sitting with our emotions and working through our problems or utilizing our ability for a greater mental capacity, we immediately turn to our phones where we can mindlessly perform the same pointless actions over and over again.
I think that we have become so distracted by it that we are failing to ask ourselves the important questions about the impact that all of this is having on our lives but more importantly, what directly we want our lives to take. Are smart phones enabling that process or severely crippling it? The answer is obvious and clear. Over the last decade there has been a massive decline in the overall mental health picture and yet so few people seem to notice or be fully aware of it and honestly, I think it's because they have only been staring at their phones the whole time. Where does this road lead? Where is this going to take us? If we stopped and paid attention I think we'd realize that technology hasn't made our lives better and it has, instead, introduced a new era of intellectual dark ages.
On a personal level, I practice a lot of mindfulness and meditative practices. I work to be present with my thoughts, emotions and it helps me increase awareness. It's extremely positive for me and it's my desire and goal to help pass these methods onto others because I know that for many people, happiness, fulfillment and mental wellness is going to escape them as long as we continue to lean on and rely so heavily on technology. I've noticed that it has created a fragmentation effect on people's minds. They can't focus, they can't concentrate, their thoughts have become more like a frayed rope and it makes for poor mental health.
I truly believe that going forward, we're going to have to adjust our attitudes toward technology. Instead of it being a helpful servant, it has become a cruel master that is reaching it's tentacles into ever nook and crevice of our lives. It inserts itself where it's not welcome and the the effects are palpable as we watch the continual and steady decline of mental health.